Here’s some bad news for those of us who spend a lot of time behind the wheel: not only are drivers in the U.S. getting worse, but it appears that their cars are too. A recent study by the Automobile Association of America showed that the poor economy is forcing drivers to delay or avoid needed maintenance or car repair. One in four drivers, or 25 percent, could not afford “major” car repairs (over $2,000), and one in eight drivers, or 12.5 percent, couldn’t even afford a $1,000 repair.
If you’ve priced parts or repairs lately, you’ll realize that reaching these numbers isn’t difficult. A set of four tires for today’s larger wheels can easily exceed $1,000, and a complete brake job with new pads, rotors, and labor can even creep up on the $1,000 mark. If you need major engine or transmission work, it’s almost certain you’ll cross the $2,000 threshold, depending upon the vehicle you drive and the amount of labor involved in the repair. In some cases, extended warranties can help, but these often require you to prove that you’ve followed the vehicle’s maintenance schedule.
We’re spending less money on repairs and upkeep of our cars as well. In 2005, the average driver spent $181 annually on repairs and maintenance; in 2011, that number has fallen to $169, despite the fact that labor, parts, and material prices have gone up over the past six years.
Americans are keeping their cars longer, too, which isn’t necessarily a good thing if they’re avoiding maintenance or repairs. To avoid costly repairs in the future, the AAA advises drivers to stick to the maintenance schedule recommended by their manufacturer. A transmission fluid and filter change may seem expensive, but it’s quite a bit cheaper than having to replace your transmission due to neglect.